Rhetoric or reality? Cross-sector policy and practice at the UK Government Department for International Development (DFID) in the UK and Nepal: an exploration of reproductive health and women's education linkages
Bovill, C. (2005) Rhetoric or reality? Cross-sector policy and practice at the UK Government Department for International Development (DFID) in the UK and Nepal: an exploration of reproductive health and women's education linkages, no. 375.
Within the international development community, global agreement around a poverty elimination target and the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) has led to renewed emphasis on partnership and cross-sectoral approaches. Similarly the UK Government aims to ensure policies are coherent in an increasingly complex global arena and has called for joined-up working. In response to both of these influences, the UK Government Department for International Development (DFID) stresses partnership, joining-up and cross-sectoral approaches within departmental documents. This research explores cross-sector policy and practice at DFID in the UK and Nepal and focuses particularly on cross-sectoral relationships between reproductive health and women's education. The research employs a social constructionist epistemology and utilises Critical Inquiry and Feminist theories, elements of grounded theory and narrative analysis methodologies, informing the use of numerous data collection methods. These methods include literature searches, document analysis, semi-structured interviews (incorporating Participatory Learning and Action techniques), informal meetings and critical reflection. Data was gathered in the UK and Nepal from DFID staff, Nepali Government staff, DFID-funded project staff, external development consultants and other stakeholders. A 'cross-sector continuum model' is presented to facilitate understanding of the different definitions and possible levels of cross-sectoral engagement. Examples of cross-sector policy and practice are presented and discussed. Key factors facilitation cross-sector policy and practice are also identified. The greatest levels of cross-sectoral engagement were found at project-level in Nepal, although the DFID offices had also made some significant efforts to improve cross-sectoral approaches. Poor knowledge and selective use of the reproductive health and women's education research, however, exposed a gap between research and policy. In addition, the reality of cross-sector policy and practice often did not match the rhetoric within DFID's documents. According to respondents, DFID faces some substantial challenges that contribute to these research-to-policy and policy-to-implementation gaps. Despite the increased calls for cross-sectorality, there is little evidence of the benefits of cross-sector policy and practice, suggesting the need for research clarifying the added value of cross-sectoral approaches. Finally, the lack of agreement over cross-sector definitions, the lack of operational guidance and DFID's strong emphasis on outcomes all suggest the need for a reorientation of focus towards cross-sectoral processes. Based on these findings and conclusions, recommendations are made for DFID and other organisations wishing to pursue cross-sectoral approaches.